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Updated: Song 73 | Crack City

9/16/2023
In recent days I commented on such songs as “Time Will Crawl,” “Sunday” and “If You Can See Me.” Each is an example of Bowie using evocative lyrics that are not necessarily meant to be taken literally. Between the lyrics, the music, and other aspects of how Bowie presented such songs (such as where they appeared on their albums), Bowie avoided telling us exactly what to make of the songs, but he gave us a lot of breadcrumbs to follow. This is large part of what I like about Bowie. “Crack City” takes another approach.

“Crack City” is far from Bowie at his worst. But there’s zero subtlety to the song. It’s an anti-drug song that, uncharacteristic for Bowie (but sadly characteristic for the first Tin Machine album) tells us exactly what to think. There’s little room for alternate interpretations of what this song is about.

It has redeeming features— I like Reeves Gabrel’s guitar. Bowie’s voice is strong. But it’s a little rich that Bowie, along, at least with infamous addict Hunt Sales, is singing a moralistic song about drug use. This is very different than, say, “Ashes to Ashes,” in which Bowie more impressionistically sings about addiction. Or, something like “The Jean Genie” that has oblique, apparent drug references that don’t necessarily seem to be pro or anti. “Walking on Snow White” might mean that the Jean Genie uses cocaine, but maybe not.

There’s nothing to figure out with “Crack City.” So the music has to do the heavy lifting. And the music isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t rise to the level of “The Jean Genie” or “Ashes to Ashes” either. Well, I guess not every song can be “Ashes to Ashes….”

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Note from 8/10/22: I originally posted this the day after Toronto Mayor Rob Ford died.  The bombastic Ford has made international news for being exposed as being a crack user.  Several versions of this song exist on You Tube, however for whatever reason, they won’t work as links on this site anymore.  Back in 2016, I forgot I had already posted “Crack City” and I did it again on Day 337.  When you get to that day, at least as of now, the video does work.  Despite posting the song twice, I didn’t write much about it one way or the other, so I might come back to it at a future date.

Here’s what I originally wrote:

“I saw Bowie perform on three occasions in Toronto. Though I never saw him perform this song, I can’t think of a better (albeit tasteless) song to mark the passing of the city’s former mayor, Rob Ford. RIP. Album: Tin Machine”

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